When attempting to grow a successful summer garden, it’s important to know that cucumbers love Taizé chant. I especially recommend “I am sure I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” They are quite responsive to that one: “Oh, you bet I’ll show you the goodness!”
As a result of last summer’s singing, my housemates and I have enjoyed jars and jars and homemade dill pickles all winter (we probably harvested 30 HUGE cucumbers from our little raised beds!). Only God knows for sure, but I have to imagine that the constant singing that fills our household through the winter and spring had something to do with this food chain we were all participating in…
Last summer, our little community rose with the sun and walked across the sprawling front lawn to the 105-year-old stone church on the hill on our property. If I got up early enough (rarely), I liked to pause at the top of the driveway and feel the speed of our 8-acre forest-filled homestead behind me, slowly turning in opposition to the cars rushing past on the highway below. We read Morning Prayer from the Daily Office each day, flinging the windows in the church open and winding our way through 1 Kings, Luke, the canticles. Sometimes people from the community would slip into the back of the church before they went to work. Sometimes, if we were feeling bold, we’d chant the psalms to settings we made up on the walk over to the church.
My favorite dismissal from Morning Prayer starts like this: “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” We’d say that together and then walk down the front steps— sometimes with a little white dog in tow or leftovers from the morning coffee — and someone would dash over and turn on the garden hose. We spent the beginning part of the summer painstakingly putting together four 4×6 raised beds (thank goodness for YouTube instructional videos) with deer fence and rain gauges. We got our little seedlings from a local middle school that has a garden program — they sell their starts for $1 to pay for seeds for the next school year’s fall garden.
The hour after Morning Prayer was for watering — watering the plants, of course, and each other if we were feeling playful — and singing. Joyful chants, old work songs, hymns we only knew the first verses of. As the weeks passed, the spirit of God passed over the small piece of land we were falling in love with. If you’ve ever watched a little seedling nose its way up through the earth like a tiny miracle, then you know what it’s like to witness the power of God working through us in ways more impossible than you could imagine.
We grew zinnias, too, and sometimes some small friends and I would cut bouquets for the dining room table. For a couple of weeks, wild black-eye susans lined the driveway and their brilliant faces brightened the hallways of our home. When we found a smushy tomato, picked just a little too late, the little girls living with me would run down the hill to the back of the house where the chickens lived (who aren’t picky about the texture of garden-fresh produce). We hardly bought any chicken food that summer. Our flock fed off the crusts and leftovers of our own veggie feasts.
At night, the adults would sit and drink beer on the front stoop while the little ones danced in the front yard with jars and lightning bugs. Every Thursday around 6 pm, the local bagpipers association would practice at the church, the lilting horns mixing with the sounds of a southern summer— crickets, croaking, the blast of Norfolk-Southern trains across the highway. The hush of evening held the fulness of our days there together — days where we sang and prayed and painted and cooked and ate.
The summer is a season that brings life. I am grateful for the gift of slowness, grateful for a season to open myself to the life that was already happening.
What summer blessings are you hoping to receive this year?
Your “The Gift of Time to Grow” is a feast to the senses as well as a hymn of praise to the gentle grace of God and people who are wise enough to slow their lives to God’s time instead of rushing about in time dictated by the clock. We all need to allow ourselves to grow in God’s time. What a wonderful post you wrote!
Robert C. Delvin says
I have never personally enjoyed garden work (or dirt under the fingernails) but the summer growing season always conjures in my mind, happy childhood memories of growing up in Western Michigan. My parents and grandparents all maintained gardens; both of the flower and vegetable variety, partly for enjoyment, but also to supply nutritious food for their children. And, I can honestly say that there was very little grown in those gardens that I as a young boy, did not enjoy eating, including the brussels sprouts – the rhubarb, well perhaps not so much. I still love my “veggies.” I do not recall ever hearing my mother or father singing to their plants, but my maternal grandmother was another story. Hazel Belle Farnsworth-Perry of Wayland, Michigan was always singing or whistling; whether bent over pulling weeds in the garden, or doing household chores; and most often, singing of God’s goodness and love toward all his creation. Without over-romancing the tedious work that I am sure this could sometimes be for my grandmother, I am confident that it was also a labor of love. And because of that confidence, the task of picking nasty little bugs and worms off the beans and tomatoes, was less onerous for me as a small child on summer visits to my grandparents’ home. I will also swear on a stack of bibles (or the Book of Common Prayer) that Grandma Perry made the best-tasting dill pickles in all the world! To this day, the scent of fresh dill recalls both the taste of those pickles and my grandmother’s love for her children and grandchildren.
I now reside in McLean County Illinois, the heart of “corn & soybean country”. In recent years our region has seen a marked increase in small, locally owned and operated, organic farming. The seasonal produce they offer for sale at our summertime farmers markets is a colorful and rich feast for both the eyes and mouth. The weekly, Saturday market around the courthouse square has become a “place to be” for locals; an enjoyable occasion for friends and neighbors, children and dogs, while also supporting the labors of our agricultural community. I always end up buying far more produce than I had intended!
The church that I have attended for the past twenty years also has annual tradition, on Rogation Sunday, of processing “en masse” to the nearby Morrow Plots on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the oldest experimental agricultural plot in the United States, founded in 1879. Following cross, coped clergy, and singing choir, with incense and holy water, we pray God’s blessing on wise, sustainable agriculture, while recalling our commitment to responsible stewardship of God’s creation.
So, whether or not cucumbers respond especially well to Taize chant, it is always fitting for us to remember that
“We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand;
he sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
We thank thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
the seedtime and the harvest, our life, our health and food:
the gifts we have to offer are what thy love imparts,
but chiefly though desirest our humble thankful hearts.”
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love. (The Hymnal 1982; #291)
Nurya Love Parish says
As a western Michigan person myself I resonate with your stories from early life. And I am so grateful to hear of your prayers at the Morrow Plots! They are being answered – research in this location is helping find a path towards a regenerative agriculture which mitigates the effects of climate change. (http://bio-agriculture.org/research_3a.html) Your comment is a blessing and I thank you for it.